Law Enforcement Officers Call for D.A.'s Resignation

"Paul Zellerbach is unfit to hold the office of district attorney," said William Hutchinson, president of the Palm Springs Police Officers' Association.

Riverside County District Attorney Paul Zellerbach. Credit: Banning-Beaumont Patch photo by Guy McCarthy.
Riverside County District Attorney Paul Zellerbach. Credit: Banning-Beaumont Patch photo by Guy McCarthy.

Editor's Note: The following story was originally published at 2:20 p.m. on April 28, but has been updated to include a response from District Attorney Paul Zellerbach.

The heads of multiple Riverside County law enforcement organizations publicly called Monday on District Attorney Paul Zellerbach to resign in the wake of allegations that he pulled down signs belonging to his opponent in the D.A.'s race.

"Paul Zellerbach is unfit to hold the office of district attorney," said William Hutchinson, president of the Palm Springs Police Officers' Association. "The chief law enforcement officer of Riverside County is expected to uphold all the laws. You can't prosecute people for not following the law when you violate the law yourself."

Hutchinson was joined by the presidents of seven other law enforcement associations during an afternoon briefing outside the Palm Springs Police Department. Collectively, the men represent sheriff's deputies, D.A's office investigators and police officers in Beaumont, Cathedral City, Corona, Desert Hot Springs, Hemet and Riverside.

"We're here because we want the community to realize what kind of person Mr. Zellerbach is," Hutchinson said. "This is the platform for us to say, 'Enough is enough."'

Zellerbach issued a statement in response, saying, "There is nothing new here. The group holding the press conference consists of the same police unions that have previously endorsed Mike Hestrin and are funding his campaign, to the tune of over $400,000 to date.

"Hestrin is the former boss of one of the largest of these unions, so it should come as no surprise that they are doing everything in their power to defeat me and elect Hestrin," Zellerbach said.

The county's top prosecutor is under investigation for allegedly knocking down a large Mike Hestrin for D.A. sign anchored at the intersection of Indio Boulevard and Jefferson Street, as well as pulling down three smaller Hestrin signs posted outside a convenience store a short distance away. Both incidents occurred shortly before 10 a.m. last Wednesday.

A law enforcement officer witnessed the alleged activity at Jefferson and Indio and confronted the D.A. and his tribal liaison, Ricardo Rubio, whom the officer recorded on his camera phone apparently attempting to re-erect the sign.

A convenience store security camera captured Zellerbach in front of the am/pm on Jefferson, just off Interstate 10, uprooting the three Hestrin campaign signs and putting up one of his own nearby.

Zellerbach has said he obtained permission to take down Hestrin's signs from the store manager. He stated publicly that the incident at Jefferson and Indio was taken out of context, and that Hestrin's sign fell accidentally.

On Friday, City News Service confirmed Zellerbach wrote a personal check for $203 to compensate the county for his use of a county-owned Ford Escape SUV to tote around his signs and conduct political activity on the county's time. He was supposed to be in the Coachella Valley on official business.

Riverside Sheriffs' Association President Robert Masson was the first to call for Zellerbach's resignation, telling CNS last week that the D.A. had behaved in a manner that gravely undermined the public's confidence. The RSA has endorsed Hestrin, as has virtually every other law enforcement organization in the county.

Those that did not have representatives on hand Monday included the Banning Police Officers' Association, the Blythe Police Officers' Association, the Indio Police Officers' Association and the Murrieta Police Officers' Association.

Zellerbach has endorsements from most police chiefs in the county and each member of the county's Board of Supervisors, though Supervisor Kevin Jeffries told CNS Friday that he was "re-evaluating" his position after the sign furor, while Indio police Chief Richard Twiss indicated that he would make a decision on whether to pull his endorsement at the end of his department's investigation.

According to Twiss, the agency is working "hand-in-glove" with the California Attorney General's Office to get to the bottom of what happened and determine whether actual crimes -- such as misdemeanor theft or vandalism -- occurred.

"At the conclusion of our investigation, we will be delivering our facts and findings to the AG's office," Twiss said. "They will make the ultimate filing decision. My official stance is: We follow the law and do the right things for the right reasons."

– Reported by Paul J. Young, City News Service.

Murrieta Council Corruption April 29, 2014 at 05:44 PM
Mike Hestrin is running a very dirty and fake campaign with the backing of the "dirty side" of the police departments...The leadership of the police unions. Let's not forget that Hestrin was once one of them. Let's not forget that Hestrin registered Republican for that first time at the end of 2012 after being a voting Democrat since 92. The DA may be a nonpartisan office but it stinks when someone moves to this county recently and rents a house then changes their party to look good in front of local voters. Hestrin's ties are to LA and Orange Countys. Can we say carpetbagger? It is as fake as fake can get. And is anyone going to ask why Hestrin's goons were following Zellerbach?
Murrieta Council Corruption April 29, 2014 at 05:47 PM
The lesser of two evils is Zellerbach. He has fixed much of what Rod Pacheco destroyed. Hestin is like a Rod Pacheco wrecking ball. Worse Hestrin has no clue what to do other than give speeches with platitudes.
Carol Stull April 29, 2014 at 07:29 PM
KMA - Banning PD is without a permanent chief and the ranking officer, Lt. Phil Holder, indicated that he was not interested in the temporary position of acting chief. And just why do you suppose that is? Is it because his past dishonesty at his former department got him placed on the Brady list? Some police departments may clean out real problem officers but, more often than not, they let them resign and "pass the trash." Banning's former chief, Leonard Purvis, on more than one occasion blamed department problems on "second chance officers" while at the same time hiring problem reserve officers from nearby departments like Palm Springs.
LAKE ELSINORE RESIDENT April 30, 2014 at 11:41 PM
Hestrin Fridays debate with Zellerbach today Wednesday 4/30/14. Zellerbach withdrew from Friday May 2, 2014 debate for many reasons but he declined to mention any of the reasons, just said MANY REASONS. Do you think Sign Gate is getting the best of him and Hestrin the best man for the job will be our new District Attorney. Has a nice ring to it Riverside D.A. Hestrin.
desertpatriot May 01, 2014 at 08:27 PM


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